Who wouldn’t want to ride in a Subway sandwich in the sky? I recently got the chance to take a ride on Subway’s “The Beast” blimp and jumped at it. Here’s what it is like to ride in a Subway blimp.
Anyone can buy an airplane ticket or book a helicopter ride for relatively cheap. You can even book a ride on a hot air balloon or ride in the tethered balloon at Disney Springs without breaking the bank. But how do you get a ride on a blimp? Unfortunately, it’s not easy because there aren’t many. You have to be really lucky or really rich. In my case, it’s the former.
To celebrate the refresh of their restaurants, now offering freshly sliced meats, and the introduction of four new Deli Hero sub sandwiches, the company launched a limited-time Subway in the Sky dining experience. Fans in Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando could sign up to take a ride in a Subway sandwich decorated blimp. The rides were free and available on a first-come basis.
“The Beast” Subway Blimp
Subway named their wrapped blimp after the largest of the four Deli Heroes, The Beast. The Beast blimp is much larger than the half pound of meat in The Beast sandwich. It’s a nearly 180-foot-long footlong! I was lucky to score a ride as a member of the media.
Way back in 2013, I was supposed to ride in a Minion-themed Despicablimp, which was flying over Orlando in promotion of the “Despicable Me 2” movie. I was so excited, but blimps can only fly in good weather, and on my day to ride, it was a bad, bad day, so my flight was scrapped.
So, when I saw the Subway blimp flying over Orlando the other day, I also saw my chance to try to ride and I wrote to Subway’s public relations department to see if I could cover their visit. Luckily they had some openings, and I chose to ride first thing in the morning for the best chance to avoid bad weather.
You’ve most likely heard of the most popular blimp, the Goodyear Blimp. The Goodyear tire company owns four blimps, but any other blimps you may have seen flying over your city, whether it had a Minion, Snoopy. or some other company logo, that company rented the blimp from one of the few blimp/airship companies and paid to have it wrapped with their logo or design. That’s what Subway did for their multi-city tour. Everything from the blimp balloon, to the gondola/cabin, to the pilot’s shirt and hat had the Subway logo.
Before this flight, I had the wrong idea of how large the blimp’s cabin would be. I attribute it to seeing Indiana Jones and his dad sitting down at a table inside the Hindenburg. It wasn’t just movie exaggeration, the Hindenburg was huge! And the cabin represented in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was accurate to the Hindenburg. But blimps aren’t as large. According to AirShips.net, the Hindenburg wasn’t a blimp because of its rigid frame. Like a hot air balloon, most blimps’ shapes are maintained by the pressure of the helium inside it, although some are semi-rigid.
As you’d expect, the Subway blimp took off and landed at the airport, but not from a runway, just a larger field. Subway had an area set up in the field where guests could make their own Subway branded hats and sunglasses, as well as take photos with props. They also provided restrooms, a place to rest, and had a trailer set up to check in and sign a waiver before the flight.
It takes a lot of ground crew to get an airship into the sky and safely back on the ground. More than a dozen people help guide the balloon as it takes to the air. Everyone was nice, but stern about where you could and couldn’t stand for safety’s sake, and they had each of us enter the blimp’s cabin one at a time. The cabin has room for up to eight people, including the pilot. Our flight had the pilot and a Subway spokesperson up front, plus five passengers, including myself, all seated the whole time and buckled in.
I’ve ridden in helicopters and small airplanes before, and have sometimes felt sick while doing so, but the Subway blimp ride was very smooth and I never felt any twinge of sickness. It felt more like riding in a hot air balloon than a powered vehicle. As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve seen a blimp flying overhead, they go pretty slow. We maxed out at about 45 mph, and slowed down to about 20 mph as we circled Universal Orlando.
Besides the cabin’s small size, and the smoothness of the flight, there was one other thing I wasn’t expecting: how loud it was. It was similar to how it sounds in a helicopter or small airplane. We all had to wear headsets to be able to talk to the pilot and each other. It wasn’t so loud that it would have hurt our ears, but the fan engines made it too loud to converse.
We had a wonderful 45-minute flight to Universal Orlando and back at about 1,000 feet off the ground for the best view. Even though our flight was less than an hour, the blimp can go much further without stopping. After visiting Orlando, the The Beast headed to Miami without stopping. The pilot said it would take them abut six hours. The one thing the Subway blimp doesn’t have is a restroom. The pilot said they avoid eating and drinking that day until they get to their destination.
Subway in the Sky
Another unique aspect of the Subway blimp rides, was that it sort of turned the cabin into a Subway restaurant 1,000 feet in the air, aka “Subway in the Sky.” We were each given lunchboxes with samples of the four Deli Hero sandwiches. At first, none of us were eating because we were too excited to be looking around. I mentioned this to the Sunway spokesperson onboard, and she reminded us what a unique thing it is to say we dined on a blimp, so we all dug in and ate at least one of the subs. Of course we all chose to eat The Beast, since our blimp was designed to look like a huge Beast sub. You could say we enjoyed a “flight” of sandwiches on our flight.
I’d love to take another trip in a blimp, but they are hard to come by. I’m thankful to Subway for this “once in a lifetime” opportunity. If you’d like to ride in a blimp, I suggest setting up a Google Alert for the word “blimp.” That way, anytime a blimp is in the news, you’ll get an email, and maybe there will be a sign-up form for a ride. Tickets to ride are sometimes auctioned off as well. One of the Subway passengers came all the way from the Northeast United States to ride in Orlando.
Here’s a video of my ride, with many more facts about how blimps operate from the pilot. Below that, you can find more information on all four of Subway’s new Deli Heroes.
Subway Deli Hero Sandwiches
Subway’s culinary team spent more than a year crafting classic deli-style sandwiches that also highlight their new slicers. The Titan Turkey and Grand Slam Ham feature 33% more meat than traditional subs, and the Beast boasts a half pound of meat. All Deli Heroes come with double cheese, served on Subway’s freshly baked bread with the optimal combination of sauces and vegetables. The lineup of new Deli Heroes includes:
- Titan Turkey: Turkey, double provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mayonnaise. Served on Artisan Italian bread.
- Grand Slam Ham: Ham, double provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mayonnaise. Served on Artisan Italian bread.
- Garlic Roast Beef: Roast Beef, double provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and Roasted Garlic Aioli. Served on Artisan Italian bread.
- The Beast: Pepperoni, salami, turkey, ham, roast beef, double provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, mayonnaise, and MVP Vinaigrette. Served on Artisan Italian bread.